Haslam signs guns-in-parks, asks lawmakers to watch implementation

Despite long disagreement over stripping local government’s authority to dictate whether guns are allowed in their parks, the governor agreed to let the legislature have its way.

Gov. Bill Haslam said the final version of the so-called guns-in-parks bill is a “vast improvement” from its original form and signed the bill Friday despite his reservations.

“I am concerned that an unintended consequence may be operational challenges for local leaders in managing their parks in a safe, effective and consistent manner, due to events and situations that could not have been anticipated in drafting this law,” he wrote in a letter to the House and Senate speakers and the bill's sponsors explaining his rationale Friday.

Under the new law, guns would remain banned at school parks but are allowed in all other parks, such as those with hiking trails, playgrounds and little league baseball games. Guns are not allowed within the immediate vicinity of school-sanctioned events, such as a school softball game. The legislature intentionally decided not define how close a handgun carry permit holder can have their gun to such event.

As a former mayor of Knoxville who advocated against the state legislature allowing guns in parks during his tenure, Haslam has repeatedly expressed concern over the proposal in past years. However, satisfied enough with changes made by the legislature this year to sign the bill, Haslam asked the lawmakers to monitor implementation of the law.

Haslam, who was pressured by school districts and gun control advocates to reject the bill, has used his veto pen three times in his five-year tenure. His vetoes have struck down a measure targeting animal cruelty whistleblowers, loosening restrictions on pollution and forcing a private school to abandon an anti-discrimination policy. However, his veto power is weak and it takes only a simple majority of both chambers to override him.

The guns-in-parks bill won approval by nearly a two-thirds majority, if not more, in both houses, spelling what would have been an easy override when the legislature returns in January.

The legislation came after years of lawmakers attempting to make the state law allowing guns in parks more universal. Lawmakers initially hoped to pass the law ahead of the NRA’s annual convention in Nashville earlier this month, but legislators blew a hole in that timeline when the Senate agreed to widen the bill to allow guns in the state Capitol. That provision was eventually deleted.

Apr 24, 2015 11:42 AM

Register doesn't want Metro to join suit for more education funds

Via Pith, Jesse Register tells the school board that Metro should stay out of a legal fight for more money for Nashville schools due to the improved relationship between MNPS and Gov. Haslam and new education commissioner Candice McQueen.

Mar 9, 2015 2:48 PM

Haslam: After defeat, 'I don’t know what the next step looks like'

Gov. Bill Haslam says he’ll try again to address health care access in Tennessee despite the legislature’s rejection of his Insure Tennessee plan Wednesday, but added doesn’t see a path forward to make that happen. 

“I don’t know what the next step looks like,” the governor told reporters about an hour after the Senate Health Committee pulled the plug on his bill on a 7-4 vote. “People elected us to answer problems and to come here to make a difference and we need to figure out a way to do that.”

The legislature had been reticent to support his plan, which took a market-driven tack toward capturing federal dollars to states that expand Medicaid. The votes weren’t there for his plan in the House and the Senate committee was filled with legislators eager to vote against it, sources said.

The governor’s proposal focused on healthy incentives and vouchers to low-income Tennesseans who have employer-sponsored health plans for people who make below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Haslam said he’s open to further negotiating a deal with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but said he doubts the feds can give up any more than they have already, saying “I don’t know what else we’d go and ask them for.”

The governor, like several lawmakers, said he wished he had more time. Haslam, who called the special session, said between striking a deal with HHS in December and finalizing a waiver amendment in January, he had little time to talk to lawmakers about the plan and convince them of its merits. On the other hand, he said, it was premature to sell them on the idea any earlier.

While the bill came to an end in a committee of 11 people, legislators from across the General Assembly expressed the most doubts about Insure Tennessee around whether the federal government would uphold its end of the deal over time, which includes covering 100 percent of the costs through 2017 and scaled down to 90 percent of the costs in 2020. Hospitals agreed to take up the state portion in order to reap the benefit of $7.8 billion over two years. 

Haslam side-stepped questions about whether he was disappointed in top Republican leaders in Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell who never extended support for his program.

“That’s not my role to play,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m really disappointed [for] 280,000 people who could have had health care coverage. At least right now doesn’t look like we have a path to get them there.”

Haslam said he won’t reintroduce the same plan but will continue to make health care a focus in a way the legislature can get behind.

“We took what I think is one of the biggest problems — that, by the way we still haven’t solved — and tried to do our very best to come up with a solution that met the framework that they’d given us to solve. And we’re going to keep doing that. I think that’s why people elected us to come here,” he said. 

Feb 4, 2015 6:15 PM

Haslam's Medicaid expansion plan dies in Senate

Health and welfare committee casts fatal vote against Insure Tennessee
Feb 4, 2015 3:01 PM

Haslam hits the road to sell Insure Tennessee

Via Der Kaiser,

Haslam opened the tour at Jackson-Madison County Memorial Hospital, where he sought to explain his Insure Tennessee proposal and assuage the concerns of fellow Republicans wary of approving the program in a special legislative session next month because it would draw on federal money available under President Barack Obama's health care law.

"This is not Obamacare," Haslam told reporters after the event. "This is a different program that puts incentives in there for healthy behavior both on the user side and on the medical care provider side.

"And it won't cost Tennessee taxpayers another dime," he said.

Jan 22, 2015 7:14 AM

Bill Haslam is the richest politician in America

And now, a doozie from Forbes.

It appears that our governor is now the richest politician in America due to falling gas prices.

FALLING PRICES at the pump are typically good for politicians, and that’s doubly true for Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. An heir to truck stop chain Pilot Flying J, Haslam has seen his net worth more than double since August–from $980 million to an estimated $2 billion–thanks to cheaper gas. He’s now the richest elected official in America.

Cheap unleaded means more people filling up–and a greater chance for gas stations and truck stops to profit off fuel, plus ancillary goods and services. “In a declining fuel market, these operators do much better,” says John R. Lawrence, managing director at investment bank Stephens.


Jan 21, 2015 10:27 AM

State physicians back Haslam's health care plan

From the T-FP:

The state's largest physicians' organization says it is fully backing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's Insure Tennessee proposal to extend subsidized health insurance coverage to an estimated 200,000 lower-income residents.

Jan 21, 2015 7:56 AM

Haslam's health bill likely to start in the House

Via 1100:

Haslam’s Insure Tennessee — which uses federal funds made possible by the controversial Affordable Care Act to expand health care coverage in Tennessee — probably will come as a House Joint Resolution, said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville. That means the discussion starts, and potentially ends, in the House, said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville.

“If it failed in the first House (committee) we’re done,” Ramsey said during a Senate GOP caucus meeting Thursday afternoon.

Jan 16, 2015 8:14 AM

Haslam administration files early bills

Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative agenda began to emerge Thursday, as the administration filed a trio of bills two days into the new legislative session.

Haslam spokesman Dave Smith said he anticipates the remainder of the governor’s agenda will be filed after Haslam’s State of the State address.

The bills, with the administration’s summary of each, are:

SB 117/HB 106 – “The first is the Protection of Volunteer-Insured Drivers of the Elderly (“PROVIDE”) Act, which encourages people to become volunteer drivers for the elderly by providing drivers with liability protection. Current Tennessee law protects volunteer drivers who are serving through a government agency. The PROVIDE Act extends driver protection to any person volunteering through a charitable organization or human service agency to provide transportation to senior citizens. If the volunteer is not acting in “good faith within the scope of his or her official actions and duties” or acts with “willful or wanton misconduct,” the liability protection will not apply. The proposal was recommended in a 2014 report by the Governor’s Task Force on Aging.”

SB 118/HB 107 – “This is a bill to make some technical corrections to the Tennessee Promise language that became evident during the program’s implementation. For example, the clarifying language will ensure that military students on leaves of absence for training are eligible to apply for the Tennessee Promise upon return. Also, the definition of “gift aid” will be amended to clarify that the calculation of last dollar does not include scholarships offered by the institution or other independent sources of financial aid like civic clubs and memorial scholarships. All the proposed changes are aligned with the intent of the original Tennessee Promise legislation passed in 2014.”

SB 119/HB 108 – “This adjusts and improves the state’s teacher evaluation laws and policies as the governor announced in December. As previously discussed, the governor’s proposal would:

· Adjust the weighting of student growth data in a teacher’s evaluation so that the new state assessments in ELA and math as well as social studies and science will count 10 percent of the overall evaluation in the first year of administration (2016), 20 percent in year two (2017) and 35 percent in year three (2018). Currently 35 percent of an educator’s evaluation is comprised of student achievement data based on student growth;
· Lower the weight of student achievement growth for teachers in non-tested grades and subjects from 25 percent to 15 percent;
· And make explicit local school district discretion in both the qualitative teacher evaluation model that is used for the observation portion of the evaluation as well as the specific weight student achievement growth in evaluations will play in personnel decisions made by the district.” 


Jan 15, 2015 3:44 PM

Cagle: It could get ugly for Haslam this session

Metropulse columnist Frank Cagle says that Haslam's involvement in primaries may have kicked up a hornets nest when the General Assembly comes back in January.

Sep 18, 2014 8:39 AM